Can You Hear Me Now?: Expert Advice on How to Choose the Best Two-Way Radio

Hand holding radio communication, close up.

Lost at sea? Heading to a construction site for a job?

What do these two scenarios have in common? Both could benefit from having a two-way radio.

For outdoor and workplace activities, two-way radios have been used for years. If you need to communicate with others in areas where a cell phone won’t cut it, you need the best two-way radio.

With so many options out there, how do you choose? Keep reading to learn the main considerations when buying a two-way radio.


There’s a strong chance you’ll run into weather conditions that aren’t comfortable while on the job or trying to enjoy an activity. You can handle certain weather conditions, but can your two-way radio?

Mother Nature can turn the table at any second so your two-way radio needs to have a certain level of weatherproofing. You might only need a splashproof model to withstand light rain if you live in a less temperate area.

The best two-way radio is a completely waterproof one. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, accidents do happen where you’ll wish you had it.

Models like this can withstand heavy rain and some can work when submerged. Certain models can submerge in water for 30 minutes at a time without sustaining damage.

The benefits of two-way radios that are weatherproof include the fact that you can use them for almost anything. For example, if you enjoy fishing over open water, you’ll benefit from having a two-way radio.

Plus, certain models float so if you do accidentally drop it in the water, you don’t have to dive down to get it.

If you live in a particularly hot or cold area, you’ll want to keep the operating temperature range in mind when purchasing Motorola radios or other two-way radios.

Discover more on Motorola two-way radios through the link.

You can find two-way radios that act as weather alert radios and not just communication devices. The best type of two-way radio is one that scans NOAA channels periodically.

You might be able to tune into a weather channel instead of only receiving alerts.

Weight and Size

The best two-way radio brand will have different radio options based on weight and size. When you need to carry a lot of things at once, weight and size are huge consideration factors.

A compact and lightweight radio can attach to your belt, fit in your pocket, or slip inside a bag easily. Smaller units won’t weigh you down and will have less of an impact on your pockets because they are budget-friendly.

The downside to lightweight and compact radios is that they don’t have as many features. If you need a two-way radio for workplace safety, it’s best to choose one with as many helpful features as possible.

Channels and Privacy Codes

A standard two-way radio gives you access to 22 channels. If you use GMRS channels, you’ll have to get a license from the FCC.

Using any of the 22 straight channels is not the best way to use a two-way radio. If you are in a busy area, you’ll pick up transmissions from everyone on the same channel.

This means you might miss important information and communication from a member of your project. Contrary to popular belief, privacy codes, the term commonly used for these radios, don’t mean private communication.

Privacy codes will filter out transmissions that aren’t sharing your channel or code combination. A privacy code will add a layer of identification to transmissions.

Someone using a monitor feature on your channel might still hear your transmissions. If you need to use your two-way radio in a busy location, radios with large channel combinations are the smart choice.

If you need privacy to go a step further, you can choose a two-way radio that features a call mode. This mode allows you to specifically call or private chat a member of your group.

Emergency Features

Whether you are going to use your two-way radio for business or outdoor activities, it’s important to have a radio that can play a vital role in your emergency plan.

If you need immediate assistance, find a two-way radio that has an emergency alert function that can send signals to those you communicate with. The alert type will vary from brand to brand.

An alert might flash S.O.S to other radios or use a loud alert that gets louder until someone responds to your emergency.

Some radios have features for those who like to go off on their own. An alarm will sound at intervals of your choosing and you’ll have to reset the timer within a certain limit.

If you don’t reset the timer, the two-way radio will switch to emergency mode. This is beneficial for those who might be in aid but cannot reach their radio.

Flashlight features are also common for emergencies. However, using a flashlight on your two-way radio can drastically drain the battery.


The maximum distance between two-way radios where they can still receive and transmit communications is called range. Some radios max out at less than 6 miles while others can reach up to 50 miles.

It’s important to note that the maximum range manufacturers claim to have is based on testing under the best conditions. In the real world, you’ll be dealing with interference and other obstacles.

In an industrial or residential area, you’ll have trouble hearing others within a few miles. The distance over open water is also less than the maximum range but better than residential and industrial areas.

These are the main factors that can negatively impact the performance of a two-way radio:

  • Topography (tall formations, hills, deep canyons, ridgelines)
  • Weather (thick clouds)
  • Obstructions
  • Electromagnetic interference
  • Large metal surfaces

If you plan to communicate over long distances, you’ll need to buy a radio that has a maximum range of greater than you need. The environment will determine how effective you can communicate between radios.


On a full charge, you’ll want your batteries or battery pack to last a sufficient amount of time. Two-way radios generally have one of two rechargeable batteries:

  • NiMH
  • NiCd

Because they operate at a wider temperature range, NiMH batteries are preferred over NiCd. They also last longer on a full charge and don’t suffer from memory effects.

Choosing a two-way radio that will accept disposable or rechargeable batteries is your best bet if you plan on using your radios for a longer period. Make sure you stock your pack with compatible batteries to avoid running out of power.

Some radios charge via USB. Although this might sound like a downside, you can easily recharge your radio using a solar charger.

Bluetooth Compatibility

These days, two-way radios with Bluetooth compatibility are not hard to come by. Plus, they offer more benefits than the alternative.

Bluetooth-compatible two-way radios provide a longer range for group communication. They are common and low-cost wireless solutions for a lot of activities and especially for workplaces.

VOX Support

VOX, or Voice Activated Transmit functions, allow you to operate your radio hands-free. When activated, this function will transmit your communication as soon as you start to speak.

You can pair your radio with a high-quality headset and mic to get the most out of the feature. To make this happen, you’ll need a two-way radio that has headphone jacks.


Two-way radios that also act as GPS are more expensive than other options, but for a lot of users, the feature is worth the cost.

A big advantage of the GPS feature is that it allows you to test peer-to-peer positioning. This means your location will be broadcasted to other two-way radio screens within your party.

There are nontraditional radios that don’t work like walkie-talkies. Instead of allowing you to talk and listen, you’ll be able to link a cell phone and exchange messages with users who have the same set up.

These nontraditional radios also transmit a GPS location.

Purchasing the Best Two-Way Radio for Your Needs

Most people find that two-way radios are beneficial for workplace and outdoor activities.

The best two-way radio is a combination of many things. It might have weatherproofing features, certain privacy codes, and emergency features.

Along with features, you need to pick a radio with the correct weight, size, range, and power for your activities. Weather alerts, VOX support, and Bluetooth compatibility are other great add-ons if you have the budget for them.

Take what you’ve learned from this guide and buy a two-way radio today! For more posts like this, check out the other articles on our blog.

Hemant Kumar
Hemant Kumar is a project manager at Tridindia with more than nine years of commendable experience in writing about LMS, translation, and IT. His unmatched talent and passion for digital marketing gave him the opportunity to work as a multi-tasking project manager at TridIndia’s sister company, Link Building Corp. Today, he contributes to the world by imparting knowledge on SEO, link building and internet marketing etc., that helps business owners grow their online business.